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What Do Food Cravings Say About You?

What Do Food Cravings Say About You?

Occasional food cravings are something we all have in common. Some food cravings are caused by nutritional deficiencies, but others originate for more complicated reasons. Luckily, regardless of the cause, most cravings can be reduced. While certain sources of food cravings can be difficult to pinpoint, some very common food cravings have pretty surprising sources and solutions.

You Might Need To Balance Your Blood Sugar

When you’re reaching for cookies or ice cream, a lack of energy may be the problem. When your blood sugar levels take a dip, sugar cravings are extremely common. Though it might feel good in the moment, snacking on sugar will actually cause your blood sugar levels to spike. When your blood sugar levels fall shortly after, you’ll find yourself craving sweets all over again. Try snacking on some healthy complex carbohydrates or protein instead. Protein and healthy carbs (like whole grains and starchy vegetables) are digested slowly, so your blood sugar levels will stabilize, rather than being a roller coaster.

You Might Need To Hydrate

If you’re craving salty things, your body may need more water. When you’re dehydrated, you usually are low in electrolytes as well. Electrolytes are minerals our body uses to absorb water, some of which are found in salt. Drink a glass of water next time you feel a salty food craving coming on, and your problem may be solved.

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You Might Need A Checkup

Chronic salty food cravings can also be an indication of certain health complications. Addison’s disease and several different adrenal conditions are all preceded by salt cravings in some patients. If you’re having chronic salty food cravings, it might be time to for a quick checkup.

You Might Need Endorphins

A craving specifically for chocolate is sometimes your brains way of saying you’re low in feel-good chemicals. Endorphins are one such chemical released by the brain. A powerful boost for your mood, endorphins are also released when you eat chocolate, but also flood the system during sleep and exercise. Try taking a quick nap, or going for a run next time you can’t shake the chocolate cravings.

You Might Be Stressed Out

Another source of craving salty foods could be your mood. If you’re feeling stressed out or more anxious than usual, your adrenal glands are working overtime. Adrenal glands manage our stress responses, releasing hormones when we’re in a fight or flight state. Being angry or too stressed can essentially tire out your adrenal glands, causing an increase in salty food cravings. If this is the case, try blowing off some steam before you reach for salty snacks.

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You Might Be A Thrill Seeker

Believe it or not, even your personality can influence your cravings. If you’re the type of person who likes excitement, craving spicy foods might be common. Several studies have shown that strong cravings for spicy foods may be a sign your body is craving sensation. Try doing a few things out of the ordinary when you can’t get enough spice.

You Might Need To Change Your Habits

A lot of cravings are caused by habits and how you usually eat. For example, overindulging in salty foods on a regular basis will cause your body to crave more salty things. Similarly, habitually consuming refined sugar and fake sweeteners will trigger increased sugar cravings in the future. Fight these sources of food cravings by eating a diet full of variety and healthy sources of sugar and complex carbs.

You Might Need More Sleep

A recent study from UC Berkeley found a fairly direct link between lack of sleep and junk food cravings. By studying the way the brain becomes impaired by sleep deprivation, the study found that higher brain function was blunted, while functions like desire and motivation were amplified. This may lead to the participants preference for salty, fat laden junk food while sleep deprived.

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You Might Be Too Strict With Your Diet

If you’re on a diet, make sure you let yourself occasionally snack on sweet and salty foods. Measured indulgences can help stave off sudden, overpowering cravings for junk food. Especially if you’ve eliminated carbs and sweets, small portions of junk food can help avoid self-inducing a nutritional deficiency. Being overly restrictive with what you eat can end up causing more cravings than you need to deal with.

You Might Have Natural Cravings

If you’re a lady fighting food cravings, you should keep in mind your monthly cycle. Unfortunately, cramps and bloating aren’t the only friends Mother Nature brings with her to visit. If it’s that time of the month, you’re likely to experience increased food cravings. Part of these cravings may come from your body’s increased need for energy, but also may be related to a monthly lack of serotonin. Eating an extra serving or so of carbs each day of your period will help boost serotonin, plus provides extra energy your body needs.

You Will Have Extra Cravings If You’re Pregnant

Additionally, if you’re pregnant, don’t forget that seemingly extreme food cravings will be a usual occurrence. there’s no need to panic however, the cravings you’re experiencing will fluctuate with the nutritional needs of your baby. In some circumstances, you may experience cravings for non edible items like chalk or dirt. This phenomenon is known as Pica, and tends to only occur in pregnant women. If your cravings are stretching beyond your kitchen table you might be one of them. If you think this might be the case, it’s a good idea to mention your cravings to a Dr.

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Cravings come in all varieties, but many solutions exist. Getting to the root of your craving will undoubtedly help you fight it. Don’t forget to give yourself a little bit of leeway in your daily diet. By listening to your body, and treating yourself well, you can become the master of your cravings.

Featured photo credit: reynermedia via flickr.com

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Alicia Prince

A writer, filmmaker, and artist who shares about lifestyle tips and inspirations on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 28, 2020

14 Low GI Foods for a Healthier Diet

14 Low GI Foods for a Healthier Diet

Diet trends may come and go, but a low-GI diet remains one of the few that has been shown to include benefits based on science. Low GI foods provide substantial health benefits over those with a high index, and they are key to maintaining a healthy weight.

What is GI? Glycemic index (GI) is the rate at which the carbohydrate content of a food is broken down into glucose and absorbed from the gut into the blood. When you eat foods containing carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose, which is then absorbed into your bloodstream.[1]

The higher the GI of a food, the faster it will be broken down and cause your blood glucose (sugar) to rise. Foods with a high GI rating are digested very quickly and cause your blood sugar to spike. This is why it’s advisable to stick to low GI foods as much as possible, as the carbohydrate content of low GI foods will be digested slowly, allowing a more gradual rise in blood glucose levels.

Foods with a GI scale rating of 70 or more are considered to be high GI. Foods with a rating of 55 or below are considered low GI foods.

It’s important to note that the glycemic index of a food doesn’t factor in the quantity that you eat. For example, although watermelon has a high glycemic index, the water and fiber content of a standard serving of water means it won’t have a significant impact on your blood sugar.

Like watermelon, some high GI foods (such as baked potatoes) are high in nutrients. And some low GI foods (such as corn chips) contain high amounts of trans fats.

In most cases, however, the GI is an important means of gauging the right foods for a healthy diet.

Eating mainly low GI foods every day helps to provide your body with a slow, continuous supply of energy. The carbohydrates in low GI foods is digested slowly, so you feel satisfied for longer. This means you’ll be less likely to suffer from fluctuating sugar levels that can lead to cravings and snacking.

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Let’s continue with some of the best examples of low GI foods.

1. Quinoa

GI: 53

Quinoa has a slightly higher GI than rice or barley, but it contains a much higher proportion of protein. If you don’t get enough protein from the rest of your diet, quinoa could help. It’s technically a seed, so it’s also high in fiber–again, more than most grains. It’s also gluten-free, which makes it excellent for those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

2. Brown Rice (Steamed)

GI: 50

Versatile and satisfying, brown rice is one of the best low GI foods and is a staple for many dishes around the world. It’s whole rice from which only the husk (the outermost layer) is removed, so it’s a great source of fiber. In fact, brown rice has been shown to help lower cholesterol, improve digestive function, promote fullness, and may even help prevent the formation of blood clots. Just remember to always choose brown over white!

3. Corn on the Cob

GI: 48

Although it tastes sweet, corn on the cob is a good source of slow-burning energy (and one of the tastiest low GI foods). It’s also a good plant source of Vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron, all of which are required for the healthy production of red blood cells in the body. It’s healthiest when eaten without butter and salt!

4. Bananas

GI: 47

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Bananas are a superfood in many ways. They’re rich in potassium and manganese and contain a good amount of vitamin C. Their low GI rating means they’re great for replenishing your fuel stores after a workout.

They are easy to add to smoothies, cereal, or kept on your desk for a quick snack. The less ripe they are, the lower the sugar content is! As one of the best low GI foods, it’s a great addition to any daily diet.

5. Bran Cereal

GI: 43

Bran is famous for being one of the highest cereal sources of fiber. It’s also rich in a huge range of nutrients: calcium, folic acid, iron, magnesium, and a host of B vitamins. Although bran may not be to everyone’s tastes, it can easily be added to other cereals to boost the fiber content and lower the overall GI rating.

6. Natural Muesli

GI: 40

Muesli–when made with unsweetened rolled oats, nuts, dried fruit, and other sugar-free ingredients–is one of the healthiest ways to start the day. It’s also very easy to make at home with a variety of other low GI foods. Add yogurt and fresh fruit for a nourishing, energy-packed breakfast.

7. Apples

GI: 40

Apple skin is a great source of pectin, an important prebiotic that helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut. Apples are also high in polyphenols, which function as antioxidants, and contain a good amount of vitamin C. They are best eaten raw with the skin on! Apples are one of a number of fruits[2] that have a low glycemic index. Be careful which fruits you choose, as many have a large amount of natural sugars[3].

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8. Apricots

GI: 30

Apricots provide both fiber and potassium, which make them an ideal snack for both athletes and anyone trying to keep sugar cravings at bay. They’re also a source of antioxidants and a range of minerals.

Apricots can be added to salads, cereals, or eaten as part of a healthy mix with nuts at any time of the day.

9. Kidney Beans

GI: 29

Kidney beans and other legumes provide a substantial serving of plant-based protein, so they can be used in lots of vegetarian dishes if you’re looking to adopt a plant-based diet[4]. They’re also packed with fiber and a variety of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds. They are great in soups, stews, or with (whole grain) tacos.

10. Barley

GI: 22

Barley is a cereal grain that can be eaten in lots of ways. It’s an excellent source of B vitamins, including niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), fiber, molybdenum, manganese, and selenium. It also contains beta-glucans, a type of fiber that can support gut health and has been shown to reduce appetite and food intake.

Please note that barley does contain gluten, which makes it unsuitable for anyone who is Celiac[5] or who follows a gluten-free diet. In this case, gluten-free alternatives might include quinoa, buckwheat, or millet.

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11. Raw Nuts

GI: 20

Most nuts have a low GI of between 0 and 20, with cashews slightly higher at around 22. Nuts, as one of the best low GI foods, are a crucial part of the Mediterranean diet[6] and are really the perfect snack: they’re a source of plant-based protein, high in fiber, and contain healthy fats. Add them to smoothies and salads to boost the nutritional content. Try to avoid roasted and salted nuts, as these are made with large amounts of added salt and (usually) trans fats.

12. Carrots

GI: 16

Raw carrots are not only a delicious low GI vegetable, but they really do help your vision! They contain vitamin A (beta carotene) and a host of antioxidants. They’re also low-calorie and high in fiber, and they contain good amounts of vitamin K1, potassium, and antioxidants. Carrots are great for those monitoring their weight as they’ve been linked to lower cholesterol levels.

13. Greek Yogurt

GI: 12

Unsweetened Greek yogurt is not only low GI, but it’s an excellent source of calcium and probiotics, as well. Probiotics help to keep your gut microbiome in balance and support your overall digestive health and immune function. Greek yogurt makes a healthy breakfast, snack, dessert, or a replacement for dip. The most common probiotic strains found in yogurt are Streptococcus thermophilus[7] (found naturally in yogurt) and Lactobacillus acidophilus[8] (which is often added by the manufacturer). You can also look into probiotic supplements for improving your gut health.

14. Hummus

GI: 6

When made the traditional way from chickpeas and tahini, hummus is a fantastic, low-GI dish. It’s a staple in many Middle Eastern countries and can be eaten with almost any savory meal. Full of fiber to maintain satiety and feed your good gut bacteria, hummus is great paired with freshly-chopped vegetables, such as carrots and celery.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to eat healthier or simply cut down on snacking throughout the day, eating low GI foods is a great way to get started. Choose any of the above foods for a healthy addition to your daily diet and start feeling better for longer.

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Featured photo credit: Alexander Mils via unsplash.com

Reference

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